My BFF Chris Celek started up this really cool service for small businesses to get started using video for their web sites, social media presence, etc. So he calls me up and asks if I wanted to be a guinea pig to test out the cameras, instructions and his final edits.
What?!? A chance to play with toys? I’m all in!
Anyway, we shot some stuff, talked into a mic and sent the whole mess back to Chris, sort of like stuffing a big pile of dog poop into a bag and handing it off to someone else.
And out of that bag of sh….. well, he made this for us. He even gave my editor a cameo.
Take a good look at the photo to the right. What do you see?
Most of us see a dandelion, a vile weed that should be ripped up, poisoned and killed, stomped out and cursed at.
And I did too until just the other day when it occurred to me that I have been looking at dandelions all wrong for a very, very long time.
A dandelion is a fantastic example of nature that refuses to die gracefully, constantly adapting itself to insure its survival in spite of being poisoned with pesticides and maliciously hacked up. We pull the flower, we dig the root and still, year after year, dandelions find a way to reproduce and procreate quickly in abundance. When we dig, they burrow deeper; when we pluck, they seed discreetly. When we poison, they grow resistant.
And when they grow ripe for spreading, their yellow flowers form irresistible wispy orbs that entice children and adults alike to pluck the stem and blow the seeds back into the lawn where they take hold and produce more enduring plants. Before we realize what we have done, the seeds have scattered, destined to take root the next season without fail.
This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Flowers. To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.
I apologize for my sight-sightedness with respect to my opposition to your state education budget cuts and SB5, which sought to limit bargaining rights for teachers. Clearly these were bills designed to give smart-ass bloggers like me an endless supply of content for free.
Please forgive my lack of vision. I look forward to the endless bounty of your labors.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that it is legal for you to be strip-searched when arrested for any offense, however minor. Moreover, they did not limit the number of times you could be searched and apparently there is no need to even have just cause to conduct the search or searches.
Clearly, the justices have not read the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. For their benefit, I’ve included it below so they don’t have to page through a large law book.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
You may have noticed that “persons” is the first thing listed that we should feel secure about.
A strip search is not conducted to keep the officer safe. It is intended as a humiliation tactic, to make you feel entirely powerless in the company of armed, clothed officers with badges. It is to search what rape is to sex. It is about power — complete, utter, dominating power — over another human being.
I’m not sure why what are supposed to be the best legal minds in the United States can’t see this glaringly obvious fact. I do wonder, though, if people now can be strip-searched, how can we strip-seach a corporation? Where is the anal cavity of a corporation?
The logic appears to be at odds. I’m beginning to think they are making this up as they go.
The Supreme Court of the United States of America just listened to three days of argument as to whether or not the recent Affordable Care Act (ACA) is Constitutional. Central to the twenty-six States’ argument is that the Federal government can not compel its citizen to purchase something they they do want to buy.
Like these opponents of the ACA, I have a big problem with the Federal government telling me what I should and should not be buying. But I have an even bigger problem with my fellow citizens who insist on sucking out only the benefits of citizenship without shouldering any of the responsibilities. In short, we should never be at a juncture where the government is forced to make us play nice with each other.
What affects you, affects me. The United States of America is our community and we should never cede control to a government because we can’t figure out how to take care of each other.
Solve that problem and you have a small government.
But I digress.
What we are calling health insurance is not really insurance. It is just a way to pay for health care. Mandating citizens buy health insurance is not at all like forcing them to buy car insurance. Not buying health insurance is an act of denial by some that their bodies will not get sick or injured.
If we want to stick with an automobile metaphor, it is more like being in denial about changing your car’s oil and expecting it to run simply because the oil is healthy today. Ignoring your health care by pretending you will always be healthy only acknowledges you are healthy today but ignores the fact that your body wears over time. Like oil, some bodies break down faster than others. Sometimes, the oil pan gets punctured even when the driver is careful.
In other words, illness and injury are a certitude with a human body. It’s just a matter of when. No business worth a damn capitalizes based on certain loss.
The current health insurance market is unsustainable and the industry knows it. What nobody is saying is that the health insurance companies were unsuccessful at selling insurance to young, healthy people, so they lobbied to get this group covered — and paid for — by their parents. That took care of that group while Medicare takes care of the older group they didn’t want to cover. Now, the only the group left are middle-aged people who are getting fired left and right by employers, thereby getting dropped from coverage.
Individual plans? These are gawd awful expensive for anyone over 45 so most just drop coverage and pray they don’t get cancer or a heart attack. If the ACA is struck down, in ten years there will be nobody left to buy health insurance.
Insurance companies know this.
The ACA gives them 20-30 years to transition their business model. Without it, they probably have fewer than ten years before they will all be frantically merging, trying to pool assets and mitigate losses. The argument against the individual mandate is being driven by the very wealthy, the very healthy and the already Medicare-serviced. Selfish pack of idiots.
You just need to be paying attention halfway with half a brain to figure this out. It just is not that hard. The morality of providing health care or the constitutionality of forcing us to pay for something does not even need to be part of the argument.
We had just moved into the big house on Van Buren Ave. in St. Paul in 1968. There were only four of us kids then, my two younger sisters were still babies. My mom didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood except Fannie, a rather plump, proper lady who lived straight across the alley from us facing Blair Ave. I’m not quite sure how they met, but I think it was at the laundromat that used to be on the corner of Blair and Dale, the one with the 5¢ Coke machine that dispensed glass bottles.
When Fannie walked, her girdle and underthings swished beneath her dress. She always wore a pastel-colored dress, even in the winter. She had white hair that was cut short and gold-framed glasses. I don’t remember her ever smiling, but her face was friendly and pleasant to look at. It was the face of a calming, comfortable grandma.
I think This American Life should keep the episode available as part of its official history of the show. Without it, we will lose a critical piece of our own historical culture, much the same way we have when we redacted the n-word from works of literature or shelved films that show actors in blackface. Without the episode, we will know where we are, but will have forgotten the steps we took to get here. Without the episode to remind us, we are bound to repeat this error at some time in the future. Moreover — while deeply embarrassing for Ira Glass — it will remain a stark reminder of his duty to respect his “blink” moments.
I don’t know if it is as dire as all that, but I think the issue is about more than just trust. I think what Mike Daisey was able to pull off speaks more about who we are as an American culture than it does about the nature of journalism, truth or trust.
By his own admission, Mike Daisey is a performance artist. The monologue and the story he crafted were always his performance, whether he was on stage in front of an audience, in front of Ira Glass or Ed Shultz. The fact that each of the latter chose to ignore the fact that Mike Daisey was in character and performing was their failing, not his. I’m sure he was just as delighted in duping them as they were delighted to be interviewing him.
The Canon is replete with works by artists and writers who borrow facts heavily to spin their stories. Many times the veracity of the story is never explained as that would ruin the mystery. However, there are hints in each work to suggest that the story — while plausible — is simply not a factual account.
In An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce the reader is led to believe that Peyton Farquhar has somehow escaped his hanging. In the middle of his narrative, the more attentive reader will begin noticing some inconsistencies such as the trees lining up in the forest and the shift in point of view. The reader who becomes wedded to Farquhar’s success will miss the subtle cues.
In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf does not even bother to hide the fact that she would be lying to the reader. “Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.” Whether or not there were lies contained in her essay or where they were is up to the reader to decide.
In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne introduces us to the story by way of telling us he found “documents, in short, not official, but of a private nature…I could account for their being included in the heap of Custom-House lumber only by the fact that Mr. Pue’s death had happened suddenly…” and the cloth containing an embroidered scarlet letter. Anyone of the day would have known Hawthorne to be a custom house officer and this accounting plausible. It is only by prefacing the story with The Custom House that made it believable as a historical reckoning. It was, of course, entirely false as was the story of Hester Pryne.
In each of these performances, there were a few details that were just too perfect, just too pat. But the audiences really, really, really needed to believe and each fooled its audience in its time. The cues are what Ira Glass missed. Missing the cues is what is embarrassing him.
Mike Daisey’s performance on This American Life illustrates what he knows intimately about American Culture. Mike Daisey knows the power of story in a highly-charged, desperate culture in the middle of a crises of identity.
We are a culture that will desperately believe in a myth rather than the facts. We want to believe the Olive Garden is authentic Italian food or that what McDonalds puts out as food is actually a hamburger. We believe we are paying the full price of the cell phone service we receive or that books should be free. We believe reality TV is not edited and the indie band we just discovered is authentic and has not been marketed. We believe the music we stole from a locker is justifiably ours because the music industry has been ripping us off for years.
We believe FOX News is really news and not just entertainment wrapped around a set of facts. We believe we can somehow get skinny eating whatever we want without exercising.
We are a culture that believes in a man named Jesus who walked the Earth two thousand years ago and was born of a virgin mother and nailed to a Roman cross to save us from our sins. We believe this so passionately that we are willing to bend non-believers to our will with laws and public shame. We believe this so deeply that we are willing — actually require — the person with the ability to blow up the entire world twenty-seven times over to also believe.
We believe that iPads should cost under $1,000 and blithely turn our attention away from the human and environmental abuses that make that possible. This is what makes a story like Mike Daisey’s plausible, possible and probable. It is the juxtaposition of our deep unease with the reality that people are being exploited with our insatiable need to have cheap stuff that taps our conscience just a little and tells us that Mike Daisey’s story is true, even though it is factually inaccurate.
How could we not know? The truth is, we couldn’t not know. The signs of truth are too blatant.
And we also believe that This American Life is journalism and that journalism does not tell stories. Journalism reports the naked facts, unedited. In reality, Ira Glass is every bit as skilled a storyteller as Mike Daisey is.
For this one episode, Mike Daisey was better. He should never apologize for that.
Thanks to Sister Mary Clarentia (who we adoringly called Sister Tarantula or The Tranch for short) in seventh grade, I fell in love with the usage rules of the English language. When I went on to high school, Sister Ursula, (Sister Rubber Lips, sorry. † self) my Latin teacher, showed how language had even stricter rules. In my senior year, Ms. M-P (the first person I knew who had a hyphenated last name.. she still scolds me that she doesn’t want me to use her real name in my blog) showed me that these rules can be manipulated to create all ranges of emotion and bend people to your will based on your words alone.
Wow, that was real power, I thought, I wanted more of this seductive drug.
SXSW Interactive starts tomorrow and I feel like I should be putting up a post on the topic, even though I’m not going. As I watch my twitter stream on the topic, it occurs to me that the experience is vastly different for my crowd vs. the A-lister crowd.
Of course I have a short parable… or metaphor… or whatever to illustrate my point. Here goes.
If Chris Brogan forgets his charger for his MacBook Air, he tweets out something like “Hey, can anyone lend me a charger for a MBAir?” Within minutes, he will have his pick of twenty or so to happily charge his Mac.
If I forget my charger for my MacBook Air, I would tweet out “Hey, can anyone lend me a charger for a MBAir?”
Crickets. Not only would I get crickets, but I may even get RTed with lines like “some idiot forgot his charger at SXSW. LOL”
Who said that wishes would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it, and look what it’s done so far.
Someone was first with the idea that if he wished on a star and believed, that his wish would come true. He created this idea from two disparate objects — a wish and a star — out of nothing other than his imagination. At some point, he shared his fragile idea with someone else. And that someone else had a choice to either embrace it as a fantastic idea and fan it… or belittle it, ridicule it and kill it.
In that ever brief moment, the spark of a creative idea took hold. It was fanned with nothing more than a human belief that could not be verified. No ROI was produced, no matrices were created to measure against; just a spark of human thought against the wonder of the world that surrounded the thinker.
While frantically running errands on Thursday afternoon before our industrialized world decided that it would shut down at 5:00pm, I caught the middle of a discussion on NPR where a guest was talking about how music and arts are being systematically removed from school curriculum in favor of more STEM classes to comply with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. (I can’t find the program; npr.org stinks as a curation site.) What we are doing is creating generations of human beings who do not value art or music.
What we are losing is the ability to create, recognize and fan the spark of creativity.
I’m going out right now to wish really hard on a star. Join me.
PS Just as he starts to play the piano, watch Richard smile slightly. I’ll bet someone said something like, “You can’t perform a hit song on a toy piano!” How many times have creative people heard something couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be done. How many times a day do you hear it?
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This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, That song stuck in your head To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.
If you’re gonna make a movie that features a dog and that movie wins Best Actor and Best Picture of the Year, we’re gonna have a thing or two to say about it. I’m talking about The Artist starring Uggie and a few human beings in supporting roles, of course.
We don’t do movie reviews here, though this film is certainly worthy of one. After seeing it a few dozen more times, I may write one. For now, though, here are two observations.
“Silent” media gives a voice to the mute or the flawed.
Social media channels are for the most part, silent media. They do not require anyone to actually be themselves or show themselves in photos or video. You are what your words are in blog posts, in tweets, in Facebook updates and such. You do not need to be a great speaker, be able to carry a tune or dance to perform in the social media space. Social media gave to many nerds and geeks what silent film gave to George Valentin (and Uggie the dog if you want to extend the metaphor.) Sorry, you will have to see the film to the very end to understand this reference. Yeah, I know.. but life has no short-cuts.
Unfortunately for most, video is on the rise in the social media space, giving it a real voice in much the same way talkies did for silent film. Many stars will fall by the wayside, but it will also make way for the young. “People are tired of old actors mugging at camera to be understood. Out with the old, in with the new. Make way for the young! That’s life!” (Peppy Miller, The Artist)
Hating on the French
Can we just stop that already? As the Oscars went on and The Artist picked up more awards, my twitter stream filled up with anti-French tweets. I think we may be able to learn a little bit from Jean Dujardin who said in his acceptance speech, “I love your country” and proclaimed his delight for cinnamon rolls on the red carpet. If a big star like Dujardin can find delight in the smallest, pedestrian things about America, why can’t we find these same things about the French?
We all have flaws. Some of us are socially awkward; some are camera-shy. Still others have stage-fright and other have a French accent. Most of us are the dogs that run around the feet of others, just trying to get some attention. The tools you learned to use to overcome your flaws may not help you next year.
The survivors in this game are not the young as Peppy Miller suggested, but those who are willing and able to adapt.
I remember growing up in St. Paul, there was a donut shop on University and Dale that made the best raised donuts in the world. They were big and my favorite was a chocolate with crushed peanuts on top. We would take a special trip there every few months and only get one donut for each of us. The donut would take forever to eat.
We had the same relationship with the Dairy Queen on Rice St. We would visit the DQ on the Sundays our family drove down by the Mississippi to watch the barge traffic. We didn’t go for those drives often and we would always only get a small cone per kid. No matter how hot it was, that ice cream would last for a long time.
Today’s post is a guest post by the novelist and essayist, Jane Devin. We’re delighted she stopped by to bark and walk in our back yard and welcome her any time she wants to wander in. If you haven’t already, buy her book, Elephant Girl. It is nothing short of amazing.
Earlier this month, a YouTube video of a fed-up father who shot up his daughter’s laptop after she posted a disrespectful letter about her parents on Facebook went viral on the internet. This is the video:
A few words up front: I was not a perfect parent and sometimes not even an adequate one. I don’t know Mr. Jordan or his daughter well enough to speak to their true characters, intentions, or their family dynamics.
What I do know is what Mr. Jordan chose to make public. First, his 15 year old daughter wrote a scathing post against her parents which many people, including me, thought made her sound like an entitled brat. She posted it on Facebook and her dad found it through their dog’s account (seriously). Second, Mr. Jordan decided to teach Hannah a lesson by posting a video to her Facebook wall. After going off on his own diatribe, which I found not too horrible (hey, parents are people, too — our feelings get hurt and we don’t appreciate being disrespected,) Mr. Jordan decided to put several rounds of bullets into his daughter’s computer. That’s where his family drama became ugly for me.
A majority of parents (and by my count mostly women), lauded Mr. Jordan with praises like, “It’s great to see someone actually parent” and “The brat got what she deserved – I bet she won’t dare act that way again”. It takes a lot to shock me, but these kind of comments did. Here’s why:
1) If it was any other authoritarian relationship — say, employee/employer, teacher/student — people would have been up in arms over the destruction of property in order to teach a lesson, not applauding the act. If someone provided a computer to their employee or student and then shot it up when they found them abusing it, most of us would think they were nuts, even if they did pay for what they destroyed. We wouldn’t be praising the “lesson” they were teaching.
2) The “lesson” that it’s somehow okay to destroy someone’s property when you feel disrespected, even if it’s something you bought as a gift, teaches that destruction and revenge are appropriate responses. It seems to me that a lot of people who grow up with that lesson are the same ones who do things like slash the tires of their boyfriend’s car when they find out he wasn’t faithful.
3) The definition of vandalism is “deliberate, mischievous, or malicious destruction of public or private property.” The law may have given the father the right to control his daughter’s use of property, and he could argue that the property was ultimately a gift he bought and then reclaimed, but the spirit of vandalism remains. He deliberately and maliciously destroyed something even he admitted was his daughter’s.
4) Discipline and revenge are not the same thing. That’s why comments like “finally, a parent acting like a parent” stunned me. Since when is an act of vengeance the same as discipline? While I understand people’s frustration with kids who are spoiled or act “entitled” I fail to see how shooting up a child’s possessions can, in any way, be considered good parenting or intelligent discipline.
5) The public doesn’t know, can’t know, both sides of the story. The dad said his daughter was grounded for three months before for doing something “similar” and “stupid.” To those who say the girl was previously spoiled and therefore needed a harsh reminder of her place, I’d counter that a three month restriction seems pretty drastic and not lax at all. A quarter of a year is a long time in the life of a teen — and there are few teenagers who don’t repeat their mistakes. And that list of chores? How long did they take in reality? Did the girl also work at her stepmom’s business, as she claimed? Was she given adequate time outside of school to be a kid? We don’t know. While the girl’s letter was nasty — I especially took exception to the “cleaning lady” bit — maybe she had her own and possibly legitimate reasons for being frustrated.
6) Like Hannah’s father, I also left home at 16. I was mostly self-supporting by the age of 14. I don’t think it made me a better or more responsible person, and I would not wish that kind of necessary but early independence on any teenager. I have no problem with a 15 year old having a part-time job, but unlike Hannah’s dad I don’t view it as a requirement. I think a child’s primary job is to go to school. I think learning social skills and having friends and activities is also important. There’s plenty of time and occasions in life to go to work at Burger King for minimum wage. At 15, I think a job should be a choice, not a condition of living happily under your parent’s roof.
7) Another viral YouTube video was that of a judge who was shown spanking and yelling at his then-teenage daughter for being disobedient. He had told her not to download music from the internet and she did. The majority of parents condemned the judge for his abuse, which was blatant and easy to see. Almost no one in that case called the girl a spoiled brat or praised the judge for his parenting skills. Yet Mr. Jordan was lauded for shaming his daughter publicly by posting his video on Facebook and YouTube — an act that will have consequences for her years into the future — and for taking a gun to his daughter’s property in order to prove that he was the man in charge. The hallmarks of domestic violence are not always physical. The six signs of an abuser are: Dominance, Humiliation, Isolation, Threats, Intimidation, Denial and Blame. Again, I do not know Mr. Jordan outside of what he has made public, but I see all six signs in the behavior exhibited in his video. He asserted his dominance, humiliated his daughter, promised to isolate her through restriction, threatened her with promises that her life was about to get “a whole lot harder,” intimidated her by showing her his power, denied that she had any right to complain, and then blamed her for his own overreaction, which was to put several rounds of ammunition into her property. I do not see much of a moral difference between the physical abuse of the judge and what Mr. Jordan did. Both men showed a lack of self-control and used their power wrongly. To condemn one while praising the other is, to me, hypocritical at best.
I believe in discipline. I don’t believe in destruction. I believe that good parents have a right to demand respect. I don’t believe respect is achieved through acts of violence. I believe children should know that their parents are human and can get angry and have hurt feelings just like anyone else — but I think it’s a parent’s job to model an appropriate way to deal with frustration. The use of a gun to make a point is never appropriate. Ever. That many people think it is — that the majority of comments praise Mr. Jordan — doesn’t make him, or the majority, right.
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